Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Changing Team Culture: The Perspectives of Ten Successful Head Coaches

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Changing Team Culture: The Perspectives of Ten Successful Head Coaches

Article excerpt

In the last five years, head coaches' salaries in college athletics have increased significantly. In many cases head basketball and football coaches earn more than faculty members, university presidents, and are often the highest paid public employees in their respective states (Des Moines Register, 2007; USA Today, 2007). In part, this is due to the amount of revenue and notoriety successful coaches can generate for universities through ticket sales, post-season appearances, and donations. However, as coaches' salaries and institutional rewards have increased, so has the pressure on coaches (Curtis, 2003; Simers, 2007). Prior to the explosion in coaching salaries, most institutions followed the model articulated by former University of Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh (1990) that provided coaches with a five-year window to achieve success. However, that window was effectively shut in 2003 when Notre Dame unprecedentedly fired its football coach after three years of a five-year contract (Wojciechowski, 2007). Administrators, boosters, and fans now expect success in a narrow time frame, and as a result coaches are pressed for tactics to generate it (Curtis).

Research on coaching has offered many such tactics for coaches. Much of the coaching psychology literature has focused on leadership, team cohesion, communication, and motivation (e.g.,; Chelladuari, 2005; Duda & Balaguer, 2007; LaVoi, 2007; Widmeyer, Brawley & Carron, 2002). In contrast, very little research has examined the symbolic or interpretive elements of coaching. Yet Martens (1987) contends that the essence of coaching is developing a "team culture" (p. 33) or a social and psychological environment that maximizes a team's ability to achieve success. In fact, several coaches have identified team culture as a key to their teams' success (Anderson, 2007; Thamel, 2005; Voight & Carroll, 2006; Whiteside, 2004) because it creates an environment in which all members, "think alike, talk alike, and act alike so they can support and reinforce the best in one another" (Voight & Carroll, p. 324). Despite this, few studies have examined team culture nor how team culture can be changed.

There is, however, a large body of research studying the organizational cultures of large corporations and educational institutions (Dension, Haaland & Goelzer, 2004; Kotter & Heskett, 1992; Smart & St. John, 1996; Xenikou & Simosi, 2006). Many researchers are "convinced of the link between culture and performance" (Rollins & Roberts, 1998, p.6) because it improves the clarity of work and workers' self-esteem (Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Kotter & Heskett; Oden, 1997). While others are skeptical that such findings can be generalized (Wilderon, Glunk & Maslowski, 2000), the research does provide a framework for investigating team culture and how team culture might be changed. Thus, this study used the organizational culture perspective to examine the degree to which team improvement featured a change in team culture. In addition, the study sought to identify the leader actions that facilitated team culture change.

Organizational Culture Perspective

While there are many ways to examine organizational behavior, the organizational culture perspective focuses on the symbolic and interpretive elements of organizations (Morgan, 1997). It has become a popular way to assess organizations, but "like so many concepts, organizational culture is not defined the same way by any two popular theorists" (Ivancevich & Matteson, 1992, p. 675). Although Martin (2002) has identified integrative, differentiation, and fragmentation models of organizational culture, Schein's (2004) integrative, leader-centered model is most commonly accepted and is best suited to the coach-centered model of intercollegiate athletics (Bolman & Deal, 2003; Hatch, 2000; Morgan, 1997; Sathe & Davidson, 2000). This conception views organizational culture as a pattern of shared assumptions that guides behavior in an organization. …

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